Homemade Pesticides

Spraying harsh chemicals around the yard is not your only option when dealing with summer pests. Check out these nontoxic tricks for discouraging pesky animals and bugs:

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  • To keep a pet’s food from attracting ants, set the food dish in a pie pan filled with soapy water.
  • To destroy invading ant colonies, mix three cups water with one cup sugar and four teaspoons boric acid. Loosely pack several small screwtop jars half full with cotton balls, saturated with the mixture. Pierce jar lids with two to three small holes (large enough to admit ants) and screw back onto jars. Place jars in areas where ants are active but out of the reach of children and pets.
    Aphids, mealybugs, mites, scales, and thrips
  • Make a soap spray. Mix one tablespoon dishwashing soap, such as Ivory Liquid or Shaklee’s Basic H, in one gallon of water. Test spray a few leaves of the affected plant; if no damage results, spray the whole plant.
  • Make an ammonia spray by mixing one part household ammonia with seven parts water.
  • Make an oil spray by stirring one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap into one cup of vegetable oil (peanut, safflower, corn, soybean, or sunflower). Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of the soap and oil blend with one cup water, and apply to affected plants.
  • Inexpensive snap traps from the hardware store are quite effective when deployed in large numbers. Set baited traps at two-foot intervals along the base of walls where mice run. To kill both young and old mice, set traps out twice: once to trap the adults, and then two weeks later to trap maturing young. Bait traps with peanut butter or with a small cotton ball. Mice pull at the cotton when they are collecting nesting material and so trigger the trap; unlike food baits, cotton doesn’t spoil in hot weather. To avoid leaving a telltale human odor, always wear gloves when handling traps.
  • Dump several scoops of used cat litter into the mole’s tunnel; moles find it offensive and will leave. Don’t, however, spread cat litter near a food garden because it can carry infections harmful to humans. Protect a garden from moles with wire mesh fencing, set into a 12-inch or deeper trench, all around the bed; such a fence will also help to fend off other ground-level pests, such as rabbits or woodchucks.
    Predator bugs
  • To attract predacious insects--the kind that eat other insects--dot your garden with sweet alyssum, asters, daisies, marigolds, sunflowers, yarrow, and members of the parsley family, such as parsley, fennel, and dill. These flowers offer the nectars and pollens that predacious bugs need to supplement their insect diet.


  • Plant French marigolds amid rabbit delicacies, such as lettuce and carrots, in the vegetable garden. The marigolds’ strong odor repels rabbits.
  • Sprinkle ground pepper around plants to repel rabbits--renew after every rain.


  • Countersink tin cans (such as tunafish cans) in the garden and bait them with beer. Slugs are drawn to the beer, fall in, and don’t get out again. Replenish the bait beer after a rain.

    SOURCE: From the book Home Made Best Made, published by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
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